A quick search of the hashtag #Sussexfoodie on Instagram recently revealed over 15,000 posts and whilst Southeast England is being described as the wine capital of the UK, what’s becoming clear is that Sussex is fast becoming a serious contender for one of the UK’s best foodie destinations and a great place for Sussex foodie experiences!
The Michelin Guide mentions 13 West Sussex restaurants and a further 24 in East Sussex. There are over 70 Sussex vineyards, at least 7 artisan cheesemakers, a chocolatier in almost every town, and dozens of award-winning bakers. Then there is a veritable army of producers who are rearing and growing fantastic local ingredients and enabling more and more unique farm-to-fork experiences or dining that has a genuinely low carbon footprint (and a real taste of Sussex).
Mapping all our wonderful Sussex foodie experiences would be more than a job and a half for Hercules but as the saying goes, How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So that’s what we’re going to do, by showcasing a handful of our finds at a time.
Birchwood, Flimwell, East Sussex
Birchwell is owned and run by chef Will Devlin and is his third restaurant, alongside The Small Holding (Kent) which was awarded a Michelin Green Star in 2021, and The Curlew (East Sussex).
The ingredients at Birchwell are local, seasonal, home-grown, and wild. Championing the artisan suppliers of Kent and Sussex, the menu plays host to local cheeses, dairy, wines, spirits, and beer, while many ingredients, such as mushrooms, brambles, elderberries, wood sorrel and birch sap come from the woods on the steps of the restaurant. And many of the vegetables, fruit and herbs used at Birchwood come from the one-acre farm at The Small Holding, less than five miles away in Kilndown, along with eggs, pork, lamb, hogget and mutton from free-range chickens, Berkshire pigs and Romney sheep, who live on site and at a nearby farm.
Opening at 8 am for breakfast, there is home-smoked trout, duck egg and sourdough crumpet; waffles with fruit compote and woodruff cream or set goat yoghurt with local Goudhurst honey and summer berries. Stay for lunch after a walk in the woods for Paley Farm lamb chops and parsley dressing; skate on the bone with new season potatoes and perry vinegar dressing or farm salad with pickles and preserves.
The Parsons Table, Arundel, West Sussex
The Parsons Table opened in 2015 in Arundel, since when it has put itself well and truly on the Sussex food map. With a Michelin Guide mention and two AA rosettes for culinary excellence, chef and owner Lee Parsons worked at Claridges and Raymond Blanc’s world-renowned Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons, as well as having an esteemed career in Canada.
The Parsons Table describes itself as having “an utter dedication to local and seasonal ingredients, relaxed informal dining and impeccable service”. Roasted cauliflower, aubergine and summer squash Masala, salt cod croquette, shaved summer vegetables, basil and orange loin of South Downs lamb gratin potatoes are just some of the flavours that grace the menu, followed perhaps by baked crème fraîche tart raspberries or chocolate and hazelnut marquise poached pear.
Balcombe Dairy, Balcombe, West Sussex
Based on the Balcombe Estate (not far from Haywards Heath), Chris Heyes is the man behind Balcombe Dairy which makes small batch, single herd, handmade blue cheese – Blue Cloud. The cheese is made just feet from where the cows whose milk is used are grazed and milked. Having worked at High Weald Dairy in Horsted Keynes as a novice cheesemaker, Chris was mentored by Michael Wisdom who had worked for many years for both an Italian cheesemaking family in the Kenyan mountains and on his own farm there. In fact, Michael’s talents were such that in 2009, one of his semi-soft cheeses was named as the fifth-best cheese in the world at the World Cheese Awards! Inspired by his mentor’s passion and attention to detail, Chris went on to study with the Artisan School of Food and take over from Michael when he retired as Master Cheesemaker.
Blue Cloud has won multiple awards including a gold medal at this year’s Artisan Cheese Awards, and last year, Balcombe Dairy released a new cheese, The Balcombe Breeze, a semi-hard Alpine style cheese. Both cheeses are available locally at a number of local delis as well as online via The Cheese Hut.
Sussex Gourmand, Brighton, East Sussex
Sussex Gourmand produce Sussex venison and beef Bresaola (a lean, cured meat from Italy). They are passionate about their surrounding landscape as well as about being sustainable and ethical. They use local ingredients, and organic and wild foods wherever possible. In 2021 they won a Great Taste Award (guild of Fine Food) which is just one in a number of awards that they’ve won over the years. Their artisan-cured Sussex grass-fed beef and wild venison Bresaola is additive-free and naturally cured with hand-harvested, sustainable sea salt, home-grown herbs, spices, hedgerow berries and Sussex gin.
They sell a number of Gourmet Snack Kits, hampers and gifts sets online packed with lovely local produce to complement their Bresaola.
The Artisan Bakehouse, Ashurst, West Sussex
Another multi-award winning Sussex experience, The Artisan Bakehouse sits just in front of the South Downs down a quiet, windy drive and in a 16th century cottage. Here you can come and learn the art of traditional artisan bread making, with workshops in the Bakehouse with its traditional wood-burning oven. With a range of different workshops available and online masterclasses, you can experience making various breads from around the world, including Mediterranean breadmaking, sourdough, gluten-free, and Viennoiserie and enriched doughs. Louise is always on hand to make sure the experience is an exceptional one and you can also stay in one of their cottages or shepherd’s hut.
A Secret Garden Lodge, Withyham, East Sussex
A brand-new experience has just launched at The Dorset Arms in Withyham, East Sussex. The Secret Garden Lodges are in the grounds of The Dorset Arms and are decorated in vibrant faux florals and foliage, inspired by the Regency period, with untamed vines, free falling wisteria and bold roses and flowers. Seating 2-10 guests in each lodge, with full-sized dining tables, gramophone-style Bluetooth speakers, you even have your own mini cocktail lounge with soft seating.
Vibrant in the daytime and magical at night, the lodges are lit by magical twinkling lights. The lodges have double opening doors and windows on both sides to offer a breezy, al fresco experience on warmer days and The Dorset Arms provide a bespoke lodge menu, which includes amazing dishes such as lobster, prawns, Tapas, beautiful main courses made with lots of local produce.
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